The Florida gubernatorial debate got off to a rocky start Wednesday night when Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) refused to come out because his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, asked for and received a fan under his podium.
The debate moderators at CBS Miami seemed shocked, wondering aloud what to do for several minutes until Scott finally consented to join Crist on stage. Scott apparently told the hosts that the debate rules banned fans from the stage.
“We have been told Governor Scott will not be participating in this debate,” CBS moderator Elliott Rodriguez said. “Now, let me explain what this is all about. Governor Crist has asked to have a fan, a small fan, placed underneath his podium. The rules of the debate that I was shown by the Scott campaign said that there should be no fan. Somehow there is a fan there and for that reason, ladies and gentlemen, Governor Scott will not join us for the debate.”
The announcement was met with jeers and boos from the crowd.
“That’s the ultimate pleading of the Fifth I’ve ever heard,” Crist said from the stage.
Debate panelist Rosemary Goudreau of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel asked Crist if he was aware of the fan rule. “Are we really going to debate about a fan or are we going to talk about education, and the environment, and the future of our state? I mean, really,” Crist said as the moderators struggled to keep the debate from turning into “a platform for one candidate.”
“I mean, if he’s going to give it to me, I’m going to take it!” Crist laughed. Shortly after Crist began speaking, Rodriguez announced that Scott had changed his mind.
Toward the end of the debate, the moderators asked Crist why he brought out the fan. “Why not? Is there anything wrong with being comfortable?” Crist replied. Scott, when asked why he delayed coming out, said, “We feared he wasn’t going to show up. So why come out until he’s ready?”